Arthur Keith

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Arthur Keith
Sir Arthur Keith.jpg
Arthur Keith
Born (1866-02-05)5 February 1866
Aberdeenshire
Died 7 January 1955(1955-01-07) (aged 88)
Downe, Kent
Nationality Scottish
Fields
Alma mater University of Aberdeen
Known for Group selection
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society[1]

Sir Arthur Keith FRS[1] (5 February 1866 – 7 January 1955) was a Scottish anatomist and anthropologist, who became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Hunterian Professor and conservator of the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London (not to be confused with the Hunterian Museum Glasgow Scotland).[2][3][4]

Career[edit]

A leading figure in the study of human fossils, he became President of the Royal Anthropological Institute. The latter role stimulated his interest in the subject of human evolution, leading to the publication of his book A New Theory of Human Evolution, in which he supported the idea of group selection.

Where others had postulated that physical separation could provide a barrier to interbreeding, allowing groups to evolve along different lines, Keith introduced the idea of cultural differences as providing a mental barrier, emphasising territorial behaviour, and the concept of the 'in-group' and 'out-group'. Man had evolved, he claimed, through his tendency to live in small competing communities, a tendency which was at root determined by racial differences in his 'genetic substrate'. Writing just after World War II he particularly emphasised the racial origins of anti-Semitism, and in 'A New Theory of Evolution' he devoted a chapter to the topics of anti-Semitism and Zionism in which he argued that Jews live by a 'dual code'. He is also famous for discovering the Sinoatrial node (a component of the heart) during 1907.

Biography[edit]

Born in Persley, Aberdeenshire, the son of a farmer, he obtained a Bachelor of Medicine at the University of Aberdeen in 1888. He travelled to Siam on a gold mining trip in 1889 where he gathered plants for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London in his capacity as a plant collector assistant for the Botanical Survey of the Malay Peninsula.

On returning to Britain in 1892, Keith studied anatomy at University College London and at the University of Aberdeen. It was at Aberdeen where Keith won the first Struthers Prize in 1893 for his demonstration of ligaments in humans and other apes. In 1894, he was made a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. In 1908, as he says in 'A New Theory of Evolution', he was 'put in charge of the vast treasury of things housed in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons', which brought about a shift in his interest from anatomy to the pursuit of 'the machinery of human evolution'.

He studied primate skulls, and in 1897 he published An Introduction to the Study of Anthropoid Apes. Other works include Human Embryology and Morphology (1902), Ancient Types of Man (1911), The Antiquity of Man (1915), Concerning Man's Origins (1927), and A New Theory of Human Evolution (1948).

Keith was editor of the Journal of Anatomy between 1915 and 1936 and elected President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland for 1918 to 1920.[5] He gave the 1927 presidential address (Darwin's Theory of Man's Descent As It Stands To-day) to the British Association meeting in Leeds.[6]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1913.[1] He was knighted in 1921, and he published New Discoveries in 1931. In 1932, he helped found a research institute in Downe, Kent, where he worked until his death.

European hypothesis[edit]

British anthropologists Arthur Keith and Grafton Elliot Smith were both fixed on European origin of humankind and were in opposition to models of Asia and African origin.[7]

In 1925 Raymond Dart announced the discovery of Australopithecus africanus which he claimed was evidence for an early human ancestor in Africa, however the British anthropologists of the time, who firmly believed in the European hypothesis did not accept finds outside of their own soil, Arthur Keith for example described “Darts child” as a juvenile ape and nothing to do with human ancestry.[8][9]

Piltdown Man hoax[edit]

Keith was a strong proponent of the Piltdown Man. Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery, written by the anthropologist Frank Spencer after completing the research of Ian Langham (an Australian historian of science who suspected Keith, and died in 1984), explored the link between Keith and Charles Dawson and suggested it was Keith who prepared the fake specimens for Dawson to plant. Phillip Tobias details the history of the investigation of the hoax, dismissing other theories, and listing inconsistencies in Keith's statements and actions.[10] More recent evidence points to Martin Hinton,[11] but the case remains open.

Writings[edit]

Concerning Man's Origins[edit]

Concerning Man's Origins, a book based on his Presidential Address at the British Association in 1927, contains a chapter entitled 'Capital as a Factor in Evolution' in which he proposes an interesting explanation for Britain's leading role in the development of industrial society. Essentially he argues that the cold unwelcoming climate of Britain selected those who came here for a special ability to store food and supplies for the winter – those who didn't died out. This 'capitalism' provided a secure way of life with time to think and experiment, for a population that had been selected for inventiveness and resourcefulness. Out of this special population sprang the Industrial Revolution, centred on the colder Northern counties of England like Lancashire and Yorkshire where the high-tech developments of the time took place in spinning and weaving. This is a rare book today, which does not appear to be available as a reprint.

A Manual of Practical Anatomy (1901)[edit]

with Alfred William Hughes

Human Embryology and Morphology (1902, 6th ed. 1949)[edit]

The Antiquity of Man (1915, 2d ed. 1925)[edit]

A New Theory of Human Evolution (1948)[edit]

In A New Theory of Human Evolution, Keith puts forward his ideas on the co-evolution of Human beings, Races, and Cultures, covering topics such as Patriotism, Resentment and Revenge, Morality, Leadership, Nationalism, and Race. His particular theory emphasises the ideas of 'In-group versus Out-group', and the 'Amity-Enmity Complex'.

One chapter, entitled The Jews as a Nation and as a Race, tackles what is often referred to as 'the Jewish Question', postulating that the Jews are a special case of a race that has evolved to live as the 'out-group' amongst other races, developing a special culture that enables it to survive by means of strong cultural traditions that bind the 'in-group' with unusual loyalty and defensiveness. Such claims are very controversial today.

Physical copies of the book are difficult to obtain as it would seem that original copies exist only in small numbers, and that modern reprints do not exist. However, an online reprint of the book is available (see link below).

Prediction of the future[edit]

In September 1931, Keith and other prominent individuals of the time were invited by The New York Times to make a prediction concerning the world in eighty years time in the future, in 2011, to celebrate the paper's eightieth anniversary since its establishment in 1851. Keith's prediction warned against overspecialization in medicine:

Eighty years ago medicine was divided among three orders of specialists – physicians, surgeons, and midwives. Now there are more than fifty distinct special branches for the treatment of human ailments. It is this aspect of life – its ever growing specialization – which frightens me. Applying this law to The New York Times, I tremble when I think what its readers will find on their doorsteps every Sunday morning.[12]

Quotations[edit]

Spurious quotation[edit]

This quote is utilized in publications and websites in an attempt to demonstrate that Sir Arthur Keith, simply dismiss creationist viewpoints outright due to a presumed antitheistic bias.[13] However, in attempting to research this statement, one finds that it usually appears without primary source documentation.[14] In those instances where seemingly original documentation is provided, it is stated to be a Forward for a centennial edition or “100th edition” of Origin of Species.[15] However, several facts show that the attribution of these words to Arthur Keith is erroneous.

Keith died in 1955, some four years before the 100th anniversary of Darwin’s work, so that he was clearly not available to write an introduction for the centennial edition (this was actually done by William Robin Thompson).[16] Furthermore, while Keith did write an introduction to earlier printings of Origin of Species, in use from 1928 to 1958, the words given above do not appear in that introduction.[17] Finally, the last “edition” of Origin of Species is the sixth edition published 1879.[18] It is for this reason that all later publications of Origin of Species are actually reprints of this or earlier editions so that there is simply no “100th edition” of Darwin’s work. In light of the fact that the documentation provided by Creationist publications is specious, one is still left with trying to explain the source of this citation. It is enough to say, however, that since this “quote” lacks valid documentation, it should not be regarded as one that originates with Arthur Keith himself until it can be properly documented.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Clark, W. E. L. G. (1955). "Arthur Keith 1866-1955". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 1: 144–108. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1955.0011. 
  2. ^ "Obituary Notices". BMJ 3 (5982): 549–543. 1975. doi:10.1136/bmj.3.5982.549. 
  3. ^ Read, R. C. (2007). "Arthur Keith, the anatomist who envisioned herniosis". Hernia 11 (6): 469–471. doi:10.1007/s10029-007-0273-9. PMID 17687509. 
  4. ^ Keith, A. (1912). "Anatomy in Scotland during the lifetime of Sir John Struthers (1823–1899)". Edin. Med. J. 8: 7–33. 
  5. ^ "The Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland – Presidents of the Society". The Anatomical Society. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Presidential Address to the British Association Meeting, held at Leeds in 1927
  7. ^ Henke, Winfriend and Hardt, Thorolf (2006) Handbook of paleoanthropology, Vol. 1, ISBN 978-3-540-32474-4. p. 31
  8. ^ Barnard, Alan (2011) Social Anthropology and Human origins. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521749298. p. 10
  9. ^ Suid-Afrikaanse wetenskap, volumes 1–2, South African Association for the Advancement of Science, 1947, p. 35
  10. ^ Tobias, Phillip V. (June 1992) An Appraisal of the Case Against Sir Arthur Keith. Current Anthropology .
  11. ^ TalkOrigins. Retrieved on 8 June 2008.
  12. ^ Keith, Arthur (13 September 1931). ""World We Hope for Runs Away with the Pen of the Prophet"; Sir Arthur Keith Doubts if His Individualist Longings Can Be Realized". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  13. ^ Thus shortly after giving this quote, Christian apologist Bert Thompson remarks “These kinds of statements leave little to the imagination, and make it clear that those who say such things believe in evolution not because of any evidence, but instead because they have made up their minds, a priori, that they are not going to believe in God” (Biological Evolution, (Montgomery: Apologetics Press, 1990), 7). Similarly, Christian minister Dennis James Kennedy gives the same citation prefaced with the point that “To the reprobate mind, the unregenerate mind, creation is incredible because it requires belief in a creator, and that is totally unacceptable to such men as these” (Why I Believe: in the Bible, God, Creation . . . The Return of Christ, rev. ed. (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005) 61, cited also on 62). This same view is seen in a sermon delivered in 1957 by Christian minister W. A. Criswell who uses this quotation to support his claim that “The evolutionist begins with an a priori judgment that there is no such thing as God’s creative acts. Therefore, anything that proves special creation is immediately cast aside and scorned and ridiculed” W. A. Criswell, The Record of the Rocks ( http://www.wacriswell.org/Search/transcriptframe.cfm/sermon/2074.cfm ).}
  14. ^ Several examples of Creationist publications which give this quotation without any source reference are: W. A. Criswell, Did Man Just Happen? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957), 73; “Why Should We Believe?” Watchtower, 79 (15 October 1958), 618; John Fred Meldau, Why We Believe in Creation Not in Evolution (Denver, Christian Victory Publishing, 1959), 27. Examples of Creationist publications which give references from secondary sources are: Rob van de Weghe, Prepared to Answer: A Step-by-step Guide to Bring the Power of Christian Evidence to Your Life (Port Hadlock: Windmill Ministries, 2008), 80, 413, Bert Thompson, Biological Evolution, (Montgomery: Apologetics Press, 1990), 7 [both cite W. A. Criswell, Did Man Just Happen? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 73]; Dennis James Kennedy, Why I believe: in the Bible, God, Creation . . . The Return of Christ, rev. ed. (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005) 61, 218 [cites John Fred Meldau, Why We Believe in Creation Not in Evolution (Denver, Christian Victory Publishing, 1959), 27].
  15. ^ Thus after giving this citation, Christian apologist Ray Comfort speaks of Keith as “author of Forward to The Origin of Species, 100th edition” but fails to provide any page number (Intelligent Design vs. Evolution: Letters to Atheists (Orlando: Bridge-Logos, 2006), 9). Christian authors Linda Coates and Leslie S. Kelly similarly speak of Keith as “the scientist who wrote the forward to the 100 year anniversary edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species” when giving this same citation also without a page number (The 12 Days of Christmas: A Guide to an Old Tradition with a New Purpose (Mustang: Oklahoma, 2008), 46).
  16. ^ cf. Thompson, W. R. (1958) introduction to On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. London: J.M. Dent.
  17. ^ cf. Keith, Arthur (1928) introduction to On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. London: J.M. Dent.
  18. ^ Darwin, Charles (1872) On the Origin of Species, 6th ed. London: John Murray; In discussing this edition, Tim M. Berra notes that “the 1876 printing of the sixth edition is considered the first issue of the definitive text” (Charles Darwin: the Concise Story of an Extraordinary Man (Baltimore: John Hopkins, 2009), 89).
  19. ^ Barring outright fabrication, perhaps the best explanation is that this “quote” is actually a garbled paraphrase of a statement made by zoologist D. M. S. Watson that has subsequently been attributed to Keith by mistake. The statement made by Watson himself appears in an issue of Nature where he speaks of "the theory of evolution itself, a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible" (D. M. S. Watson, Adaptation, Nature 124 (10 August 1929), 233). For more on this citation, see the article D. M. S. Watson.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Earl of Birkenhead
Rector of the University of Aberdeen
1930–1933
Succeeded by
Walter Elliot
Preceded by
Charles Scott Sherrington
Fullerian Professor of Physiology
1918–1924
Succeeded by
Joseph Barcroft